What do you do with those tiny cast iron pans that are only about six inches in diameter—or the even smaller ones that clock in at three and half? Don’t relegate them to ashtray or spoon-rest status—mini cast iron skillets have plenty of other fun and practical uses, from toasting spices to baking up perfect individual portions of anything you’d make in a big skillet!
Lodge 6.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet, $7.99 on Amazon
Adorable and more useful than you might think.
Related Reading: The 9 Best Skillets to Buy in 2020
If you still find yourself not using your Lilliputian skillet in the kitchen, you could always turn it into an ornament or statement necklace. We prefer to keep it food-related, though.
1. Toast Small Amounts of Spices or Nuts
No need to turn on the oven or get out a large pan to toast a small handful of spices or nuts for a recipe. Just use your mini skillet (leave it dry; no oil or butter required)—keep a close eye on the ingredients so they don’t burn, and trust your nose to tell you when they’re ready to come off the heat. Dump them onto a small plate, cloth or paper towel, or clean countertop to stop them cooking any further, rather than leaving them in the hot pan where they could carry over. See more tips on toasting spices from the Chowhound community, and try out the technique with our Chicken Tikka Masala recipe. But you can toast and grind whole spices any time conventional pre-ground spices are called for to intensify their flavor in a dish!
2. Make Individual Servings of Mac and Cheese, Baked Egg Cups, Scalloped Potatoes, or Anything Else
Many things that can be made in a muffin pan are the right size and consistency to translate well to mini skillets, with the added bonus of looking extra cute when you serve them in said skillet (though watch out for that searing-hot handle). Conversely, you can also take a large-format skillet recipe and shrink it: Make mini queso fundido, mini shepherd’s pie, and more. In either case, if you’re dividing a big batch into small skillets, you just need to have more than one petite pan on hand, but if you’re only cooking for yourself, recipes that don’t rely on precise measurements or that you can easily eyeball down to size are best—think hash, frittatas, and the like.
Lodge Mini Silicone Handle Cover, $5 on Amazon
Slide this onto the handle after the skillet's out of the oven to protect against burns.
3. Make a Fried Egg for One
Optional: Cook a little diced bacon in the skillet first. And note: This is even better with the really tiny 3.5-inch skillets, because then you end up with a perfectly round egg that’s precisely right for topping breakfast sandwiches (or a burger that you fried up in the pan before cooking the egg).
Lodge Miniature 3.5-Inch Skillets, 8 for $40.95 on Amazon
An even daintier size is still useful in the kitchen.
Related Reading: Is Oil or Butter Better for Frying Eggs?
4. Use It As a Meat Mallet
If you somehow have one of these little guys but no kitchen mallet, you can use the sturdy mini skillet instead. Use it to pound chicken, pork, or beef flat for dishes that require an even thickness, like schnitzel, chicken piccata or milanese, and chicken fried steak. It could even help you crack into your steamed lobster or blue crab in a pinch.
5. Serve Tapas a la Plancha
“A la plancha” technically refers to food made on a specific type of cookware (a plancha, which is something like a Spanish griddle), but a cast iron skillet serves the same purpose, and a mini skillet is the perfect size for small plates/tapas. Try adapting our Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp recipe. Just skip the stick and place a few wrapped shrimp in the mini skillet instead, then pop it in the oven to broil (and feel free to swap in jamon as well). If you’re a fan of oily fish, try broiled sardines too.
6. Bake a Single Serving Skillet Cookie
Obviously. Skillet cookies are amazing, but if you’re eating solo (or as part of a pair), a mini skillet makes the perfect serving size. And you should still top it off with a scoop of ice cream. Get House of Nash Eats’ Brown Butter Skillet Cookie for Two recipe.
Related Reading: How to Adapt Desserts for Two
7. Make Mini Cobblers, Crumbles, and Crisps
Humble crumbles, cobblers, and crisps are ideal desserts to make in mini skillets, because you don’t have to precisely measure the ingredients to get a great result (more so with crisps and crumbles than cobblers, unless you take the shortcut of store-bought biscuit dough). Since we’re officially in the midst of fall, try making mini versions of this Spiced Walnut Apple Crisp recipe. Come summer, try cooking these on the grill, à la this Grilled Blueberry Peach Cobbler recipe (but cut the cooking time to account for their smaller size).
8. Make Kid-Size Quesadillas
Quesadillas crisp up beautifully in cast iron, and the miniature pan is just the right size for a picky kid who’s usually done in two bites, or a little snack for anyone. Use the mini street taco tortillas and you don’t even need to fold or cut anything. See our best quesadilla recipes for inspiration and downsize them accordingly.
9. Infuse Oil for an Appetizer
Gently warm up some olive oil with sliced garlic, whole spices, citrus zest, and other aromatics in the skillet to infuse it for an easy but elegant appetizer when you add toasted bread. You can either provide a tiny spoon to drizzle the oil over top, or just dip plain bread right into the skillet.
10. Make Mini Pizzas
This skillet pizza recipe from Josey Baker is one of our favorites, and if you want to make mini pizzas, just break off smaller balls of dough before building the pies in the pan. It’s a great way to make yourself a couple different pizzas for dinner if you don’t want leftovers (or if you only have little bits of leftovers to use as toppings); a move that’s sure to delight kids; or even potentially a fun party process if you have enough skillets to go around (or just want to serve everyone assembly-line style).
11. Serve Individual Shakshuka
Shakshuka is an easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner for one when you toss it together in a little skillet—or you can divide a full-size shakshuka recipe into several skillets for an Instagram-worthy brunch spread.
12. Make Personal Potato Cakes
Miniature skillets help you perfectly portion your potato cakes (latkes and otherwise). If you only want to feed yourself, just grate one or two potatoes and season to taste; our Cheesy Skillet Potato Cake recipe is easy to scale down and crisps up wonderfully in a mini pan. Add a refreshing salad on the side and you’ll be happy.
13. Bake Cheese for a Party Starter
Most wheels of Camembert are perfectly sized for 6.5-inch mini skillets (and some baby brie wheels are the right size too), so pop one in there and run it under the broiler until melted and bronzed. Top with fruit preserves and nuts for extra oomph, and serve with crackers or toast for dipping. But seriously, shell out for that mini handle protector or someone’s gonna get burned.
Header image courtesy of Atharva Lele / Unsplash